One thing I've always admired about Danish composer / multi-instrumentalist Robin Taylor is the continuing thread of collaboration that runs through his music. Although his two primary musical outlets over the years Taylor's Free Universe and Taylor's Universe are named after him, each new recording comes across as nothing less than a total team effort, and his latest disc under the Taylor's Universe moniker Artificial Joy is no exception.
Artificial Joy is the tenth album overall from Taylor's Universe and the lineup here is almost identical to the one featured on Return To Whatever which came out earlier this year. In addition to Taylor (keys, guitars, percussion) Artificial Joy features the talents of reed players Jakob Mygind (saxophones) and Carsten Sindvald (clarinet, saxophone), guitarist Finn Olafsson, Fleming Muus Tranberg (bass) and Klaus Thrane on drums. Another famous Dane and a frequent collaborator of late, guitarist Michael Denner from Merycful Fate also puts in an appearance on a couple of tracks as well.
The music here is a fantastic mix of progressive rock, jazz and the avant-garde, although the avant-garde element is significantly turned down compared to his more 'out there' excursions performed with the Free Universe band. As mentioned at the top of this review the sense of collaboration which is prominent in all of Taylors work is once again evident on this album. Robin generally prefers to let his textured keyboard work drive the melodies while the two reed players handle most of the solos on tracks like "Work", the title track, and the seven minute "Atmosfear" which also features a heaping dose of Denner's crisp and crunchy guitar solos amid the swirling reeds of Mygind and Sindvald. All in all this is a very cohesive album from start to finish and the final three songs finish out the disc in strong fashion as "Laughter" and "Telephone" contain some splendid, and at times almost manic playing from both Mygind and Sindvald . Finn Olafsson in addition to dishing out some sizzling solos of his own on the aforementioned "Work" also delivers in a big way on "Days Run Like Horses" and "Laughter". The final cut "Fame" sees Denner returning to share some of the spotlight with Taylor who finally straps on the guitar and cuts loose with some scorching solos of his own.
I'd have to say that with Artificial Joy Robin Taylor has assembled the strongest lineup of Taylor's Universe to date, and that is saying quite a bit because past incarnations of TU have definitely featureed some incredibly talented players. You have to hand to him because with each and every album he continues to surround himself with the best possible musicians available to execute his daring musical visions. Artificial Joy is yet another jewel in the crown.
2) Artificial Joy
3) Days Run Like Horses